10 Jan 2014

Cancer drug more widely available

7:39 am on 10 January 2014

Drug-buying agency Pharmac has extended the funding of a new-generation medicine for some lung cancer patients.

Erlotinib is one of a new wave of targeted cancer medicines that are particularly effective for patients with lung cancer who have a certain genetic sequence.

From January this year, the medicine sold under the trade name Tarceva will be available as a first-line treatment for newly diagnosed lung cancer patients who have the genetic mutation and have not previously had platinum-based chemotherapy. About 100 patients a year in New Zealand have the gene sequence.

It was introduced in 2010 as a second-line treatment and no joins a similar drug, gefitinib, as a front-line option.

Pharmac says the targeted drugs extend life expectancy, have fewer nasty side-effects and, because they are in pill form, are much more convenient than chemotherapy, which is administered in hospital.